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Dennis Smith Jr. in shock at damage done to hometown by hurricane

Dallas’ second-year guard has family who has been affected by Hurricane Florence

BEVERLY HILLS, California — Dennis Smith Jr. was enjoying one of his last nights before the arrival of Dallas Mavericks training camp with friends at a hip Vietnamese restaurant when his mood suddenly changed. Smith’s cousin, Isaiah Whorley, showed him a cellphone video of a military vehicle submerged in Hurricane Florence floodwaters as it drove through a small town bordering their hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina.

“I can’t believe it,” Smith told The Undefeated. “A real big military truck was halfway submerged in water? I can’t believe I am seeing something like that. … I heard the Cape Fear River was at 50 feet.”

Cape Fear is projected to be at 62½ feet by Wednesday morning, according to The Fayetteville Observer. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has described Hurricane Florence as an “epic storm” and added that parts of the state have not “seen the worst flooding yet.”

“I first started worrying when my dad called me about it,” Smith said. “They said it was coming directly to Fayetteville and by the time it got there it could be a Category 5. So that’s when I started calling some family members to make sure they were straight. I was hoping that the people that could get out would get out. But I also knew that the Smith family wasn’t going nowhere. My dad told me he was going to get his boat ready and he had a generator, so he was going to stay put.”

Smith has been following the hurricane news closely from afar, primarily through his family.

More than 2,600 people have been rescued as of Tuesday morning, but at least 32 are dead since Hurricane Florence made landfall in the Carolinas on Sept. 14. The wettest tropical cyclone on record in the Carolinas led to 81 water rescues in Smith’s Fayetteville County as of Monday, according to the newspaper.

There were 1,202 people in Fayetteville-area shelters as of Tuesday morning, the newspaper said. There have also been more than 2,500 power outages in Fayetteville. Several businesses were underwater in Spring Lake. Fayetteville officials warned locals not to walk or drive on submerged bridges or walkways in a press release and added that more substantial flooding could be coming.

Charlotte Hornets chairman and former NBA star Michael Jordan has donated $2 million to Hurricane Florence relief and recovery. Smith, 20, said Monday night that he is trying to figure out what to do to help.

The former Trinity Christian High star says he has about 35 family members in Fayetteville who did not leave after warnings about the hurricane. The former North Carolina State star said their biggest issue has been power outages, but two of his family members have flooding in their homes.

Smith added that his father’s home got through the storm fine and he is getting continual hurricane updates through a family group chat via text.

“My cousin Leon, his house got flooded. My cousin Reggie, his house got flooded,” Smith said. “But we have such a big family that everyone is being taken care of. This is the biggest hurricane there to date. My family is keeping me up to date with everything.”

Smith planned to come back home recently with Dallas Mavericks assistant coach and ex-Fayetteville State star Darrell Armstrong to attend a Fayetteville State football game Sept. 15. Fayetteville State’s game against Benedict and other scheduled athletic activities, however, were canceled because of the hurricane. Smith was also hoping to attend rapper J. Cole’s first Dreamville Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, before it was canceled.

Smith had some words of encouragement for the people affected by Hurricane Florence.

“Just keep the faith,” Smith told The Undefeated. “There is a lot of stuff that is out of your control. The only thing you can control is the faith you have from within.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.